Four Classic Albums – Chuck Berry

The idea of putting multiple albums on a CD is not a new one but has seen a surge in popularity over the last ten years. Type in any of your favourite legacy artists, and you’ll be inundated with choice over which combinations to take. One of the more prominent names is Avid Group, who have established a steady range of multi-album packages catered towards new and old fans alike.

The set I am reviewing today is the Chuck Berry offering, consisting of his first four albums; After School Session, One Dozen Berrys, Chuck Berry Is On Top and Rockin’ At The Hops. As an idea, it makes complete sense to package together the first albums of a Rock ‘n’ Roll legend; but there is a setback. The problem with packaging the first works of an artist is that it can show a work in progress rather than the finished product.

Chuck Berry is often remembered as being a hard driving rock ‘n’ roller with an instantly recognisable set of tricks in his bag of story lead songs…oh and as the writer and original performer of that song from Back To The Future. The artist depicted in the first two albums is not quite that man…yet. There are the known early hits such as School Day, Rock and Roll Music, Reelin’ & Rockin’ and Too Much Monkey Business, but the first CD is dominated by a mixture of slow blues, piano lead instrumentals and songs of sentimental attachment. While it is nice to hear his versatility, this ‘other’ side of Berry might be off-putting to casual fans. Even I, as a big fan of his music, find some of those slow rough produced jams rather hard to swallow. 

As we reach the second half of the set, things start to become a little more familiar as the selection resembles a greatest hits compilation. Many of the tracks on these two albums were released as singles, which explains their familiarity. It is clear that Berry had found his sound by this time. Those famous guitar licks start to be used regularly, as Chuck blasts out practically every Berry standard in the Rock n Roll songbook. Notable songs include Carol, Maybellene, Little Queenie, Roll Over Beethoven, Let It Rock, Johnny B Goode and loads more!

Overall, this is a collection that will please fans looking for the full albums at a cheap price. The sound quality is decent considering the age of the material, but some of the production techniques are definitely of their time.

As with most AVID releases, the package includes a small booklet with all artwork, inside notes and more; adding even more value to this reasonably priced package.

If you’re on the lookout for a cheap Berry fix with a mixture of hits and lesser known tracks, you can do no worse than this four album collection.

Four Classic Albums – Chuck Berry